It's time to lower the bar!

May 1, 2001
Is it just me or have we been educated out of common sense? I get that feeling every time I hear, "- and to be successful, you must raise the bar, get to the next level, and pursue excellence." I wonder ... is the bar set too high?

By Paul Homoly, DDS

"Knock, knock."

"Who's there?"


"Amahl who?"

"Amahl shook up pursuing excellence."

Is it just me or have we been educated out of common sense? I get that feeling every time I hear, ".... and to be successful, you must raise the bar, get to the next level, and pursue excellence." I wonder ... is the bar set too high? Is getting to the next level going to make us happier? Has the pendulum swung too far in the direction of pursuing excellence? Is being a bread-and-butter dentist not good enough anymore?

A blonde is in a Las Vegas casino and she's standing in front of a Coke machine with six men in line behind her. She puts in a quarter and gets a Coke. She's puts in another quarter and gets a Coke. She puts in a third quarter and gets a Coke, and the guy behind her says, "Hey lady, what are you doing?" She says, "Duh, I'm winning!"

In dentistry, there are times we think we're winning when we're not. If we don't use common sense, certain areas of practice management and clinical dentistry can make us think we're winning when we're not.

An example of a good thing taken too far in practice management is over-relying on statistical analysis to guide your practice. Knowing your numbers is important, but when you think every bean in the pile is as important as the next, you'll suffer. Computers are great, but they can deliver hollow information. Computers are like thermometers in Hell. They can tell you how miserable you are, but they can't do anything about it!

When numbers rule the practice, management replaces leadership in decision-making. When you lose touch with people, dentistry becomes a prison. Statistics are great, but understand that getting to the next level with practice management means understanding and influencing people. A dentist told me at a seminar, "Thanks for reminding me of the obvious. I got so dialed into the numbers and became so rigid that everybody in my practice was stressed out. I'm going to start having fun again." I'd say he just lowered the bar and got to the next level at the same time.

Pursuing clinical excellence is another area where we might think we're winning when we're not. Pursuing clinical excellence, taken too far, results in some very unhappy people - dentists, patients, and staff. An area of clinical excellence that can sabotage us is the new- patient examination. With all the new diagnostic stuff we have, it's easy to parade in front of patients with all the things that "ellipse are wrong with them" and "ellipse need to be done." I'm all for thorough diagnostics, but don't lose your mind and think that the way to building relationships is by telling patients what's wrong with them.

An overzealous pursuit of excellence distorts our vision and leads us to see only the perpetual defects around us. We end up focusing on what's wrong and discount what's right. It's the half-empty-cup view of the world. When the pursuit of excellence spills over into our relationships, it poisons the magic of great relationships. If you consider yourself an excellent clinical dentist and have all the credentials to back it up with, yet you have significant problems with people, lighten up on "excellence" and get back to appreciating your progress.

The death of common sense is thinking that "raising the bar and getting to the next level" replace the satisfaction of enjoying and celebrating the level you're at. If you aren't enjoying dentistry, it might be time to lower the bar. Start celebrating who you are and quit beating yourself up for who you aren't!

Dr. Homoly coaches dental teams to implement reconstructive dentistry through his continuing-education workshops, private consulting, and seminars. This column is an excerpt from his new book, Isn't It Wonderful When Patients Say Yes? - Case Acceptance for Complete Dentistry. Dr. Homoly can be reached at (704) 342-4900 or via e-mail at [email protected]. Visit his Web site at

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